TGS themes of the last 11 years

It struck me today that the official “themes” of the Tokyo Game Show have gotten weirder every year. I decided to research as far back as I could to find them all. We’ll start with 2000, when the show was still twice per year – I couldn’t find official confirmation for 1996-1999, so if anyone knows those, feel free to drop me a line.

Looking at the list, it seems that from 2009-2011, maybe someone new was in charge of the theme. That’s also around the time the mascot started showing up, and the English takes a marked turn for the unintelligible. But the first one in 2000 is no slouch! So, let’s be off on our gaming journey of heartful energy.

2000 (spring) Tokyo Game Show Evolves into the Year 2000 Version

2000 (autumn) The Entertainment of Your Life

2001 (spring) Entertainment in the 21st Century, Unfolded by Games

2001 (autumn) Let’s Play Together

2002 Playing Is in Our DNA

2003 A Playful Spirit Can Change the World

2004 A Brand New Sensation for Everyone in the World

2005 Your front row ticket to the next generation of gaming

2006 New Excitement. New Sensations. A New Generation.

2007 Link up, Reach out, To the World

2008 Ready for GAME Time!

2009 Game, it’s so energetic!

2010 GAME goes to a new chapter.

2011 Game-Dancing Your Heart

The future of Marvelous

A bit ago I interviewed Daniel Kurtz and Toshinori Aoki for Gamasutra. The article has just gone up, and shows MMV’s bid for retaking the global market, as they merge with AQI. The trouble is, many of Marvelous’ leading creators (Kimura of Little King’s Story, Wada of Harvest Moon, Ohshima of Sonic fame) have left, as has almost all of the Nier team (thus, all of Cavia), and much of the company line sounds like the same old things every Japanese company has said for the last 10 years. Global (read: Western) expansion, fewer, more specific core titles led by MMV’s production team and developed by AQI.

I’ve said most of this in the gamasutra article, but here’s some bonus text from the interview, since I cut a lot of it out. The discussion below starts out from the company’s discussion of creating and owning IP at Marvelous. It’s probably worth reading the Gamasutra post first.
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Video fever – vintage 1982 report on video games

Late last year, someone uploaded a 1982 ABC report on arcade games, and it’s unusually interesting. Here you’ll see inside Taito USA’s factory (the president is about the biggest sleaze I’ve seen caught on tape from that era), hear about “pac-man wrist,” and get some wise words about games and kids from an unusually sensible psychologist. That man deserves an award. And at the 2:30 mark, is “Burt Price” actually Will Wright with a beard? Sure looks and sounds like it! The whole thing is worth a look though, if you like your history.

Perhaps the best bit of this video is the revelation of an unreleased Taito USA arcade game called Toasters and Chainsaws, which was reportedly being made by “Rex and Mark.” Frank Cifaldi deduced that Rex is Rex Battenberg, and through him, I learned that Mark is Mark Blaszczyk. Unfortunately, Rex is the only guy I can get ahold of so far, and he doesn’t remember the game at all. I’ll be following these leads until I root out the truth, so stay tuned!

Getting into Sega QA in the Genesis era

QA is a very important part of a game team, and that’s often undervalued. So much so, that companies will still sometimes just hire anyone off the street.

3-year Sega veteran Mac Senour (1990-1993) has a number of interesting anecdotes on his blog about getting into the industry. One of the more interesting ones is about valuing your QA staff. In the article, he mentions that Sega had a particularly cavalier attitude toward quality assurance. Here’s an excerpt:

While I was helping them connect multiplayer, I had the following exchange with one of them:

Me: “Like boxing games?”

Tester: “Si.”

Me: “Every play any boxing games before?”

Tester: “No.”

Me: “What were you doing yesterday?”

He turned to another tester and said a few words in Spanish and then did a pantomime that resembled digging, and said: “Ditch.”

Yes, they had hired ditch diggers to test games.

If anyone has the credits handy, please send me the valiant diggers’ names! And if so many ditch diggers were working on Sega games, it could explain why the roads have gotten so bad around here…

IBM’s $20 million Pong AI

IBM has finally solved the problem Atari engineers have pondered for years – can a computer truly beat a human in Pong? Crazy though it may seem, IBM has done it at long last. The company has created a series of 3-mm wide cognitive computer chips, the components of which are designed to emulate neurons and synapses even more than previous computer chips were meant to emulate neurons and synapses. And the proof is in the grey matter pudding, as $20 million in research later, IBM has achieved intelligent Pong AI, that holy grail of computing for lo these past 40 years.

As EE Times reports: IBM envisions its cognitive computers solving a wide variety of applications in navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory and classification. So far it has taught one to recognize a cursive letter “7″ regardless of in whose handwriting. The other has learned to play (and win against humans) at the game “Pong.”

Success! And IBM is getting a new round of funding from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) to the tune of $21 million, presumably to enable the chips to learn to play (and win) at Windjammers.

Update! Years ago, IBM created a freeware Pong clone, and released it on the internet. Was it training us to become better at Pong so that its computers could later best us!? Were we the unwitting beta testers? Has this been in the works since 2006-ish!? Any other conclusion is impossible! Play it after the jump! (because otherwise it would autoload and make annoying sounds)
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site comments update

The site has had a deluge of spam from guest posts over the last few weeks, and the only solution in the shorter term is to only allow registered posts. To that effect, anyone that wants to continue posting will have to register with wordpress or intensedebate. Hopefully this will fix the problem! If, in the process of deleting the hundreds of old spam comments, I accidentally banned you, do let me know.

Halo 2600 source code released

One year ago, Ex-Microsoft Very Important Guy Ed Fries decided to test whether he could still code in assembly, and decided the 2600 would be a great place to start. So it was that Halo 2600 was born – a top-down, multi-screen shooter with a high degree of sophistication for the console.

For those interested in taking a similar path, Fries has taken the next step. “I thought I’d celebrate the one year anniversary of the release of Halo 2600 at the Classic Gaming Expo by making the source code available,” said Fries in an AtariAge forum post. “It’s not particularly cleaned up or well documented but I put it here, as is, with the hopes that it will help some future 2600 homebrew programmers, just as I was helped by others who posted their code.”

Interested persons can find the code attached to the AtariAge thread here.

Michael Jackson at Sega

Mark Cerny (Sonic 2, Marble Madness, et cetera) showing Michael Jackson around at Sega in 1988.
Update: Cerny confirms that this was indeed 1988, at the Sega of Japan office. Commenters have suggested that the young child with him is Jimmy Safechuck, with whom Jackson acted in a Pepsi commercial.

Update 2: Cerny adds: “For what it’s worth, the monkey stayed in the limo and did NOT take part in the tour. Not a joke.”